For years, the balance of power in the NBA has resided out west.
Since the end of the Michael Jordan era in Chicago, the Western Conference has won 10 of the last 14 NBA titles. Even more impressively, the West has finished with a better record than the East for 13 years running.
Every time it looks like the balance of power begins to shift eastward—whether it be Shaq in South Beach, the Celtics grabbing KG and Ray Allen, the Knicks wooing Amare and Carmelo or the Nets keeping D-Will—the West always responds. And not always through blockbuster trading or big-ticket free-agent signings.
While Dwight Howard to LA was certainly an upward move for the Western Conference, it is not the reason the West will again reign supreme. After all, Andrew Bynum went East in the trade, and the Heat, new-look Nets and revamped Celtics more than cancel out Dwight's move.
No, the reason the West will once again dominate the NBA this season is the same reason it has for over a decade: smarter management, better drafting, deeper rosters.
Of every Western Conference team to miss the playoffs last season, only the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets didn't improve, and even then, both teams had commendable offseasons considering the hands they were dealt.
Still, the top eight will be incredibly difficult for the up-and-comers to crack, as no team clearly got worse, while the Lakers, Nuggets and Clippers greatly improved.
So who will emerge from this stacked field? Here's a look into the prospects of 2012-13 for all 15 Western Conference teams.